Turretin volume 3

And so ends one of the two greatest works of Christian dogmatics. Turretin covers a number of issues that were existentially pressing for Protestants in the 17th century, both concerning salvation and persecution. From surveying the topics concerning the Church, Sacraments, and Eschaton, Turretin vindicates the calling of the Reformed ministers, the simplicity of the two sacraments, and the final hope in glory. Some highlights:

Was the Calling of the Reformers legitimate?

If ministers ought to be called, and we reject the Anabaptists who reject this, then were the Reformers legitimate ministers since they did not receive their call from an ordained ministry (in this case, the Roman Catholic Church)? Turretin makes a distinction between a church constituted and a church to be constituted (239). In a constituted church, we expect a call because we want to maintain good order. However, if we find ourselves in an area with no constituted church, granted it is an extreme example, no call is needed.

Turretin also represents the older, more robust view of the civil magistrate: Calling a Council

A godly magistrate can call a council, for magistrates are nurse-fathers to the church (Isa. 49:21-23, p. 308). Thesis: the pious and believing magistrate cannot and ought not to be excluded from all care of religion and sacred things, which has been enjoined upon him by God (316). Magistrates have a limited, not absolute sacred right.

Although the magistrate cannot compel belief, he is responsible to see that heretics are marginalized, although not executed. They can poison a nation just as thoroughly as an “external criminal.” However, Turretin makes a distinction between the ringleaders and those deceived. The latter shouldn’t really be punished. Turretin gives three propositions: Heretics can be coerced. Most heretics shouldn’t be executed. One may kill blasphemous arch-heretics (332).

Turretin gives a fine treatment on the beauty and simplicity of Reformed sacraments. Sign and thing signified: the sign is external and sensible (339). The signified thing is heavenly and invisible, in the soul, and communicated in a spiritual mode. The Form: analogy of relation (schesi). The thing promised is represented to our minds. There is a union between the sign and thing signified.

This is not easy reading but it is indispensable. We judge that Turretin should be a lifelong companion


The North-Rushdoony Split on Church Membership (Dominion Files: 2)

My good friend Kevin Johnson correctly challenged some reconstructionists on church membership.  They are devotees of Rushdoony, accepting even the worst aspects of his position.  That reminded me of an old North book, Westminster’s Confession, where he identified the basis of the split in Christian Reconstructionist circles.

Mr. Rushdoony always gave me a nearly free hand regarding what went into it. Here is what really happened. I submitted to his Chalcedon Report my monthly essay. It relied on an insight regarding biblical symbolism in James Jordan’s 1981 Westminster Seminary master’s thesis. My essay discussed the background symbolism of the Passover.  Rushdoony sent it back and insisted that I rewrite it, saying that it was heretical, and even worse. I refused to rewrite it. I did not insist that he publish it; I just refused to rewrite it. He…had rejected one other article of mine in the past, so I was not too concerned.
He refused to let the matter rest. He challenged me to make my theological position clear, to prove to him that it was not heretical. I then wrote an extended defense. He still said it was heretical. He then said thatJordan and I would have to recant in writing, and also agree in writing never to publish our essays in any form, before he would agree that we were no longer heretical. When we refused, he submitted a protest to our church elders informing them of our heresy, and asking them to discipline us both. When the church sent the essay (and my extended defense of it) to other theologians, including Westminster Seminary’s John Frame, they replied that it was somewhat peculiar but certainly not heretical. The then elders asked Mr. Rushdoony to submit formal charges against us regarding the specific heresy involved. He refused. They also reminded him that he was not a member of any local congregation, and therefore was not subject to discipline himself should his accusations prove false. He blew up when challenged on this. He then publicly fired me and Jordan from Chalcedon, announcing our dismissal without explanation in the Chalcedon Report. This surprised Jordan, since he was not
even aware he was employed by Chalcedon, not having received money from Chalcedon in years.
My full essay, “The Marriage Supper of the Lamb,” was later published in Geneva  Ministries’ Christianity and Civilization, No.4 (1985), and sank without a trace. I have never received a single letter about it, pro or con. The “crisis ofthe essay” was clearly a tempest in a teapot. But it points to the underlying tension which Mr. Clapp refers to. What is this disagreement all about? It is Tyler’s disagreement with Mr. Rushdoony about the requirement of local church attendance and taking the Lord’s Supper. We think all
Christians need to do both. The Tyler church practices weekly communion. In contrast, Mr. Rushdoony has refused to take Holy Communion for well over a decade, nor does he belong to or attend a local church. This underlying difference of opinion finally exploded over a totally peripheral issue (334-336).